Coaches love to throw the word “culture” around like it’s going out of fashion. It is, however, much more than a buzzword for Chris Softley.
Building the culture of the Lubbock Christian football team isn’t based simply on the school’s religious beliefs. That’s a big part of it, like how the team handles certain behaviors and mistakes, but for the Eagles, the culture is mostly about how they mix.
“Culture to me is the environment, it’s the temperature of the room or the environment of the room,” Softley said. “You should be able to feel it. … That’s what we believe. That’s how we behave, and those are the written and unwritten rules that we abide by. That’s our playbook definition.”
Softley believes it was this established culture that helped LCHS go from a team chosen to finish fifth in its own district to the state semifinals, falling to city rival Trinity Christian. He also thinks it will be culture that will determine whether the Eagles can do it again.
LCHS has plenty of spots to fill on the State Semifinals team. The Eagles fire just nine starters — four on offense, five on defense — and have gaping holes on the line and at receiver.
To fill those voids, Softley is turning to a trio of players who will have more time on both sides of the ball. Luke Zunika and Luke Lee, both returning defensive backs, will be the go-to receivers to fill the spots vacated by Karson Leatherwood and Connor Lack, who have combined for 73% of LCHS receiving yards and 22 of 27 receiving touchdowns in the team in 2021.
“We lost two receivers from all first-team districts, and the Lukes will have to come in and really make a difference,” Softley said.
Another player Softley sees as vital is Daniel Grimstead, who will anchor the offensive and defensive lines.
“He really will have to be one of those leaders in the trenches on both sides of the ball,” Softley said. “It will be important. The type of season he has will really dictate how good we are and how tough we are.”
Softley added, “We’ll go as far as the O line takes us.”
Several key comebacks are back for the Eagles, which should help as the team fills in the gaps elsewhere.
The backfield is already set as Bax Townsend (2,445 passing yards, 1,202 rushing yards and 49 total touchdowns) returns for his final year at quarterback. He will be joined by running backs Brady Simmons (511 yards, eight touchdowns) and Will Hawley.
Hawley may be more important on defense than on offense, but each of the three players brings experience to the table that most of the rest of the team cannot provide.
“I think Will Hawley, he’s the essence of our kind of guy,” Softley said. “It’s a well-done type of program, but also Bax, just because he’s such a talented player. … He’s a really good player and because of that, he’ll have a lot of eyes on him. .”
In addition to filling gaps on the field, the Eagles are focused on the takeaways — getting them and avoiding them.
“We have to be able to take better care of football and be able to win it,” Softley said. “Joey (McGuire) talks about ‘Take 3 University’ and he’s got that and we’ve been like that for years. At Lubbock Christian, we try to get 30 takeouts a year. … If we can get 30, we “I’m going to be an elite team this year. Taking care of football and protecting football are big tangibles for us.”
Lubbock Christian Eagles
The head coach —Chris Softley
records 2021 — 11-2 overall, 6-1 district
Basic offense — Double back spacing
basic defense – Several
Return Letterer — 17
Returning off./def. entries — 4/5
Best Feedback —Bax Townsend, Sr., QB/S; Will Hawley, Sr., LB/HB; Brady Simmons, Jr., RB; Luke Zunika, Jr., WR/S; Luke Lee, Jr., WR/S; Evan Zhang, Jr., OL/DL; Daniel Grimstead, Jr., OL/DL
* – denotes TAPPS District 1-D-III game
Aug. 26 – vs. Kermit, 7 p.m.
September 2 — in Wellington, 7 p.m.
September 9 — at Bovina, 7 p.m.
September 23 — at Waco Reicher, 6 p.m.*
September 30 – v Muenster Sacred Heart, 6 p.m.*
Oct. 7 – at Weatherford Christian, 6 p.m.*
October 15 — at TK Gorman, 2 p.m.*
Oct. 21 — vs. First Baptist Academy, 6 p.m.*
October 28 – at the Fort Worth Temple, 6 p.m.*
November 4 — vs. Mercy Culture, 7 p.m.*